Latest Flash

A Dance with Death

Who doesn't love a family reunion? Smoking a cigarette outside the church. Montana summer sun shining down. Some meth heads. Good times.

Nathan Wilkerson proves you can escape the walls of a prison a lot easier than you can escape...being you.

A Dance with Death by Nathan Wilkerson




Uncle Alex ripped off his shirt to show me the skull on the back of his right shoulder. I found the tattoo with a naked lady in the human eye socket strangely fascinating and scooted in for a closer look.

“I got that in the Montana State Penitentiary for a bag of Skittles and two bars of soap.” He flexed his muscles and the naked lady danced.

“Alex, he’s six,” Mom said. She had never liked him.

He slipped his shirt back over his wiry black hair and tugged my ear. 
                 
“See ya’ soon kid,” he said. Three weeks later, Uncle Alex was back in prison.

When Dad got the call that his brother had broken out, he made the extra bed downstairs. Dinners were tense for several days, with an empty fourth plate set. But Alex never came, and after a month the spare bedroom was packed away for the next visitor. Eight years later, the State of Montana declared Alex dead.

It took Grandma another four more years to accept this fact. Then, during my freshmen year, something clicked and she was finally ready to allow a funeral. I hadn’t seen the man in twelve years, but I Greyhounded up to Kalispell to pay respects anyway. 

The church doors spilled the twenty-some odd people from the service onto Main Street and into the heat. Montana summers are a brilliant thing to soak in along with tobacco, and I was not ready to stop when the broken woman tugged my shirt.

“Can I have a cigarette?” Her teeth were as jagged as the Mission Mountains on the horizon, but in the spirit of family tragedy I obliged. She lit it and finished it with a few powerful drags.

“Can I have another one?”

“Seriously?”

“It’s for my boyfriend.”

“Bullshit.”

Her eyes became desperate. “Please? I’ll show you.”

I followed the twig of a woman around the back of the church where we found a tattered man in tattered clothing sprawled on the ground. If his arms had been in motion, he might have been making snow angels.

“See,” she said.

“Fine,” I said. I felt like she had beat me somehow, but didn’t know why. Meth addicts don’t usually beat you, so I pulled out two smokes and gave them to her.

She knelt down to her hollow frame of a boyfriend and yanked at his clothes. The man mumbled some gibberish and sagged on his feet. Thin, scraggly black hair dangled in front of his face, and I almost hated him for his wretchedness. They lit their cigarettes in silence.

When Grandma came around the corner looking for me, I thought I was going to catch hell for smoking, but she was more concerned with the couple.

“Not today. No one’s going to ruin today. Not for this family.” Grandma, grey haired and sturdy, began to push the two of them down to Main Street.

“Come back another time, but today you go.”

“We can crash at Joey’s tonight.” The man’s voice was hollow and echoed when it shouldn’t have.

I lit another cigarette and watched the two of them walk up Main Street to wherever Joey’s house was. If they made it south by November they might be all right, but winter here would kill them. The holes in their clothes made even my self-esteem cringe. The man though… That shirt hole on his right shoulder blade. I’m sure I saw it.

Death, with a naked lady dancing in his eyes.



Louie Wilkerson lives in Portland Oregon where he imagines what he wants to do with his yet unearned fortune. Splitting time between school and work at the YMCA, he enjoys a good science fiction story, or really anything with a twist. He has a few poems published in several literary magazines, but is looking to enter the world of fiction, especially the flash.